By The Numbers: February Sales Analysis; Spring Has Sprung

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
by the numbers february sales analysis spring has sprung

After a bleak January, February offered Detroit automakers a whiff of spring. The Chevrolet Impala had a 60’s sales flashback. Thousands more customers went fission for Fusions. And Chrysler Wrangled plenty of loot from new Jeep owners (boosting their bottom line to help Daimler get the Hell out of Dodge). While The Big 2.5’s supporters may conclude that the numbers presage Motown’s long-awaited recovery, starting a Deathwatch Deathwatch may be a bit premature.

Scanning the February figures, looking at year-on-year comparisons, some models just plain took off. Sales of the Chevrolet Impala rose 43.9 percent. Sales of the GMT900-based Silverado increased 26.5 percent. Avalanches were up a whopping 109 percent. Over at Ford, 46.1 percent more folks fixed on a Fusion. Thanks to the new Wrangler four-door, the model moved 62.9 percent better than ‘afore.

Overall, Ford’s sales slipped 21.5 percent on the car side, 9.9 percent on trucks. Even with red hot Wranglers, Chrysler’s truck sales fell 4.6 percent, while car sales tumbled by 15.6 percent. Silverado sales pulled The General’s trucks up an eight percent incline. But steep declines in every division save Chevy and Saturn yanked car sales 2.7 percent lower.

To avoid premature recapitulation, you gotta factor in product freshness. For example, if you look at a February vs. February comparison for the new Avalanche, it looks like the model’s a solid sales success. However, this February’s buyers can sign away their life for a box-fresh design; last year’s buyers had to make do— or not— with a five-year-old design. The Silverado’s increase may conform to the same principle; “intenders” kept their powder dry until Chevy released the new truck. When Mellencamp’s motor hit the showroom floor, the pent-up demand created an initial sales surge.

By the same token, sales of the current gen Ford F-150 experienced a generous up tick for several months following the new model’s introduction. Now they're down 12.1 percent from last year. GM’s supposed salvation, the GMT900-based Chevrolet Tahoe, also started well. It’s down 24.4 percent. At some point, the Silverado’s momentum will require conquest sales and casual shoppers. With competition from Toyota’s new Tundra, rising gas prices and Ford’s new marketing push, it’s gonna be tough.

How did the “other side” (i.e. the foreign-owned automakers) do in this battle for domestic market share? Feb on Feb, Toyota Camry sales– benefiting from an '07 refresh– rose 17.5 percent. The increase seems to pale next to Impala’s 43.9 percent jump— until you clock the raw numbers. The Camry outsold the Impala by 14k units. The killer Camry also outpaced the Ford Fusion by almost 36k sales. The Honda Accord was Camry’s closest market segment competition– and it trailed the Camry by 7400 units.

Inventory levels are staring to look good across the board. Production cuts and incentives have brought supply and demand into a better balance. Many beleaguered automotive divisions showed double-digit drops in inventory levels from January. Saturn went into “Like Never Before” mode, quickly moving from a deeply worrying 153-day supply of product to a merely troubling 93 day inventory. OK, yes, it’s still a far cry from the 60 day ideal, but Saturn dealers must be happy with the big drop in carrying costs.

Formerly minimalist U.S. Porsche dealer lots are beginning to look a bit lebensraum challenged. The Sultans of Stuttgart’s inventory levels have jumped from an unassailably delicious 42-day supply to a “come on down” 70-day level. Blame fading sales of Porsche’s pricey Cayenne SUV. Even though the new, refreshed model is here to save the day (after skipping a model year), the SUV slump in general and Cayenne doldrums in specific raise the question automotive marketeers dread to hear: “Has everyone who wants one got one?”

America’s most available model (how great does that sound) is the Mazda B-series truck. Can someone please turn off the tap? Mazda dealers now have enough petite pickups to last 228 days. Ford’s Zoom without a Vue subsidiary would happily swap with Honda. The econobox-of-the-moment Fit and increasingly creased CR-Vs are smokin’ hot, with 19- and 20-day supplies respectively.

On the vital sales per dealer (SPD) numbers, nearly everyone’s up from January. Even tumbleweed infested Buick dealers showed a slight increase, adding two sales per dealer (to a not-so-grand-national total of six). Saturn scored the highest increase, adding 19 SPD in January (from 31 to 50). At Porsche– normally a sales tiger as the weather improves– SPD dropped by five. In raw numbers, once again, Toyota reigns supreme. The automaker hit 136 SPD in February, up 10 sales from the month previous. Lexus dealers ranked second, with a whopping 105 sales per dealer.

The automakers are hoping for some March madness. But with gas prices on the rise, the housing market on the slow and sub-primes all lent out with nowhere to go, the madness could get seriously crazy. Watch this space.

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

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  • Glenn A. Glenn A. on Mar 15, 2007

    hondaboy55, don't believe everything you read (bad) about Prius. 38 mpg?! They must have done nothing but 0-60 runs continually. Look at the many websites out there which post thousands of real world driver's MPG on hybrids and you'll see the Gen II Prius (2004-up) is running 48 mpg, real world. Probably not coincidentally, this is my annual average, though my MPG is very "temperature sensitive" and today, it was 25 degrees (I just filled the tank last evening) and I'm down to "only" 46 mpg (commute to work, 85% highway/15% town). Best mileage is spring & fall. Above 45 degrees, no air conditioning needed and haven't got full snow tires on the car yet. I probably average 52 mpg spring & fall. By the way, if anyone ever rents a Prius, there is a "trick" which will help you get the mileage that experienced Prius drivers can get. Zip up to speed at a fairly quick acceleration rate - say 55 mph zone - zip up to about 3-5 mph above the limit - back completely off the go-pedal and then ease it down to cruise. The old-time "save-gas" practices of creeping up to speed to prevent the accelerator pump in a carburetor and shifting as soon as possible are as antique as the Model T. I can enjoy blowing the doors off the SUVs as they try to get their formidable hulk moving (and getting 2-5 mpg in the process) while zimming up to speed quickly (12 mpg) then backing off at 55 (48-55-70-99 mpg). Heh heh.

  • Nino Nino on Mar 15, 2007

    Frank, 264 sales in the last two months for Ferrari? That would extrapolate into another 1,320 sales for the remainder of the year! Not bad at an average of $200K+ per transaction. __________________________________________________ New Ferraris are presold way in advance (at least, that was what I was told) and the average transaction price on USED Ferraris are $250,000. On new Ferraris...

  • SaulTigh I've said it before and I'll say it again...if you really cared about the environment you'd be encouraging everyone to drive a standard hybrid. Mature and reliable technology that uses less resources yet can still be conveniently driven cross country and use existing infrastructure.These young people have no concept of how far we've come. Cars were dirty, stinking things when I was a kid. They've never been cleaner. You hardly ever see a car smoking out the tail pipe or smell it running rich these days, even the most clapped out 20 year old POS. Hybrids are even cleaner.
  • Inside Looking Out Just put ICE there. Real thing is always better that simulation.
  • Inside Looking Out It still cannot oversimulate Telluride.
  • Jeff Doesn't appear to need much and it would be worth the asking price. Keep the straight 6 and keep it all original it is hard to find an almost 70 year old survivor like this. You are not going to race in this car it is meant for cruising and for smaller car shows. Just fix the mechanics including the brakes give it a good wax job and detailing.
  • VoGhost Hmmm. Odd that exactly zero Tesla dealers signed this lobbying letter.